We've been fans of Opera Atelier for years, especially its stylized revivals of baroque operas that today's opera-goers haven't seen or sometimes even heard of. But this year's remounts of Marc-Antoine Charpentier 's Actéon and Henry Purcell 's Dido And Aeneas had problems.
Sure, conductor David Fallis drew tight playing and singing from Tafelmusik and its chamber choir, and the sets ( Gerard Gauci ) and costumes ( Dora Rust-D'Eye ) were typically lavish, but director Marshall Pynkoski gave little life to the Charpentier. Its characterizations were weak, its comedy lame.
Dido, musically and dramatically a richer piece, fared better, even though the laughs were still forced. Monica Whicher gave real feeling and expressive musicality to the tragic queen of Carthage. Playing two vengeful characters, Laura Pudwell was a crisp-voiced standout in both works, first as the slighted Juno in Actéon and then the bearded sorceress conspiring to cause Dido's downfall. But throughout, Pynkoski's staging felt fussy and busy, and Jeannette Zingg 's choreography, which usually complements the music and action, was a distraction.